Horse Racing Tips

Mark Milligan's Big Race Verdict: Take Pic D'Orhy to win Betfair Ascot Chase

Ascot Racecourse
Mark Milligan fancies Pic D'Orhy to win Saturday's Betfair Ascot Chase

Mark Milligan is standing in for Kevin Blake and gives his Big Race Verdict on the Betfair Ascot Chase, where he's siding with a Paul Nicholls runner to turn over the odds-on favourite...

The 2m 5f Betfair Ascot Chase (15:36) is Saturday's highlight, and while it may have only have attracted a small field, it's still a select one, with three of the four runners holding strong chances. The only one that can probably be ruled out is 25/126.00 shot Sail Away, though connections will still pocket a minimum of around £9k should he get round unscathed.

Although it's only been on the go since the mid-90s, the Ascot Chase has quite a roll of honour, with the likes of One Man, Kauto Star, Cue Card, Silviniaco Conti and Shishkin all previous winners, to name just a few.

This year's renewal looks an intriguing affair despite the small number of runners involved, and I'll take a deeper dive into the three main contenders below.

Presse a deserving fav but stable form a concern

L'Homme Presse is the current odds-on favourite and it's easy to see why, with Venetia Williams' gelding making a winning comeback in the Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield last month.

Although he has a decent record fresh, that was still a good training performance to have him ready following 13 months away from the track. The last time we saw L'Homme Presse prior to Lingfield was when unseating his rider at the last in the 2022 King George at Kempton.

Seemingly held by Bravemansgame at the time, L'Homme Presse would still have finished a clear second there, prompting Timeform to award him his current master rating of 171 based on that performance.

Clearly, he'll take all the beating here if in the same sort of form, but a small note of caution is worth sounding for odds-on backers.

Although he has plenty of form going right-handed, he did jump left at Kempton and I think he's a better horse going left-handed rather than this way round, and if he isn't absolutely on his A-game there's a chance he could be turned over.

There's also the matter of stable form, with the Venetia Williams stable not in the best of nick, having had only one winner from 19 runners in the last fortnight, including several turned over at 3/14.00 or less.

Pic D'Orhy a solid opponent

Pic D'Orhy appears to hold the strongest claims of turning over L'Homme Presse, and he's an admirably consistent sort over fences, coming here having run a fine race in defeat behind Banbridge at Kempton last time, attempting to give that rival 3lb.

Again, if we look through the prism of Timeform ratings, Betfair ambassador Paul Nicholls' charge was full value for a career-best effort there and his usual slick jumping will give him every chance of going well again.

Ironically, it was his normally slick fencing that let him down a touch at Kempton last time, a less-than-fluent jump at the last handing the advantage to the winner, but for which it would likely have been closer between them.

Beaten only once last season, that defeat came in this corresponding race behind Shishkin, but there was no disgrace in losing out to a rival who can match the very best when on a going day.

Detractors of Pic D'Orhy's chances may use the 2022 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase as a stick to beat him with, where he finished a well-beaten third behind L'Homme Presse.

That would a red herring, though, as the stable's runners were in terrible form at the time and Pic D'Orhy himself was reported to have had a respiratory issue in the race itself.

Things should be much closer between the pair this time.

Ahoy Senor a touch risky

My colleague Tony Calvin has made a strong case for Ahoy Senor in his column here, and while Lucinda Russell's nine-year-old clearly comes with plenty of risks attached, I wouldn't knock anyone who wanted to plump for a bit of value where he's concerned.

My problem with Ahoy Senor is that he's increasingly hard to catch right, though he did look back to form when fourth at Cheltenham last time, where a tack problem severely compromised his finishing effort.

His jumping is far from sound, though, and if you're supporting Ahoy Senor you'll be hoping Derek Fox can get him into a good rhythm on the front end and that he has enough in the tank to hold off the big two when they come calling at the business end.

Look, he's a bigger price than both L'Homme Presse and Pic D'Orhy, but I'm not convinced his jumping will hold up under pressure, though good luck if you're siding with him, albeit he isn't convincing enough for me.

Betfair Ascot Chase Verdict

In summary, this is a fantastic contest despite the small field, and the strongest form chance is definitely with L'Homme Presse, though the form of the Venetia Williams yard and his tendency to jump left on a right-handed track both give me cause for concern at odds-on.

I'm happy to side with last year's runner-up Pic D'Orhy at the prices, with a repeat of his last run sure to put him in with a strong chance of turning over L'Homme Presse.

I'm also hoping Harry Cobden can get him into a good rhythm, and then his usual fluent jumping should be enough to expose any chinks in the favourite's armour.

Ahoy Senor will likely be the one to catch, but whether his own jumping will hold up remains to be seen, though he isn't entirely ruled out.

This looks a fabulous race and good luck whichever way you decide to play.

Back Pic D'Orhy to win 15:36 Ascot @ 15/82.88

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